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FROM THE BEGRIFFSSCHRIFT TO THE PHILOSOPHICAL INVESTIGATIONS: FREGE AND WITTGENSTEIN ON THE SEMANTICS OF NATURAL LANGUAGE JANET SKUPIEN
As the human signifying medium par excellence, language has been the subject of many attempts to conceptualize its power to mean. A number of recent and not-so-recent theories locate the sources of the signifying capacities of words in their imbrication with nondiscursive structures and practices - - the institutions and power relations of discursive regimes (Foucault, 1972), the economy of symbolic exchanges (Bourdieu, 1991), or the coordinated bodily gestures of interindividual acts (Mead, 1934). At another level of analysis, a long tradition of philosophical, linguistic and semiotic theorizing has sought to answer the question o f what it is for words to have the meanings they do in terms of the relation of linguistic expressions to the thoughts, propositions, ideas, concepts, truthor assertibility-conditions they express, the objects, properties, events or states of affairs in the world they denote, their uses or the inferential roles they play. These accounts are important not only in themselves, but also for the theories of society and public life and accounts of subjectivity, cognition and the mind that have been founded on particular ways of thinking about language. The work of Gottlob Frege is especially significant in is regard, in that it is considered to have played a key role in initiating the 'linguistic turn' in philosophy, turning traditional philosophical questions into investigations of language (Dummett, 1993, pp. 4-5). ~ Further, Frege is celebrated as the founder of semantic theory, 'the first to formulate a systematic theory of meaning for a fragment of natural language; systematic in that it sought to provide an explanation of how the significance of complex expressions, particularly sentences, depends upon the significance of their parts' (Evans, 1982, p. 7). While the fragment of language on which he worked was specialized for mathematical reasoning, Frege's work has often been taken as providing the basis for a semantics of natural language more generally and furnishing some of the basic notions, such as the distinction between the sense and reference of linguistic expressions and the construal of the sense or thought expressed by a sentence as the conditions under which it is true, in terms of which such work is carried out. 2 As founder of semantic theory, Frege has had an influence far beyond analytic philosophy of language. For example, the social theory and analysis of the processes of modernity sketched by Jurgen Habermas rest on a notion of communicative action as raising and assessing validity claims that are a generalization to other functions of language of the semantic analysis in terms of truth conditions that Habermas attributes to Frege Correspondencerelating to this paper should be addressed to Dr Janet Skupien, Department of Communication, 1117 Cathedral of Learning, Universityof Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, U.S.A.
There are. 1986. 1991). In the first part of the paper. Given the role of the notation in displaying the conditions for significant statements. with special interest in the role of communicative concerns in Frege's anti-psychologistic project. Joan Weiner (1986. and semiotic theory (Grodzinski. pp. then. it argues. While the authors on which I draw have illuminated the ways in which Wittgenstein's Tractatus (1961) can be seen as a response to tensions in Frege's writings (Ricketts. the present essay is concerned with the extension and development of Fregean concerns in the Philosophical Investigations (Wittgenstein. Weiner's (forthcoming) arguments that Frege's writings. Frege's project initiated an alternative to theory for elucidating how language works and how it . 1995. Despite the long identification of Frege with semantic theory. Conversely. this research casts doubt on the support of Frege's writings for a theory of the meaning of linguistic signs. 1985. 1995). 38). 1958) and the way in which an awareness of its Fregean heritage can shape our reading of that work. if such a theory must consist of truths. 1991. as discussed later in this essay. for example. Within the framework sketched by these scholars. the second section of the paper considers current arguments about the relation of the notation to the prose writings in which Frege describes and explains it. critically or otherwise. 1991. 1986b. This discussion raises questions concerning the problematic and important issue of what the concept-expressions of language mean. 1989. there can be no such theory. drawing a connection between Frege's use of a logically-perfect language for the expression of thoughts in systematic science and Wittgenstein's investigations of the grammar of everyday expressions. The final section. 1986a. 1990). 1990. 1990). Weiner. show that.2 JANET SKUPIEN (Habermas. p. an understanding of what the methods of the Investigations owe to Frege can help illuminate the response that work makes to the tensions arising in Frege's system concerning the notions of sense and reference and the application of Frege's logical concerns to language in everyday contexts. 1984. far from constituting a theory about language. b). 1984. the movement from the logical structure of thoughts to what it is for signs to express and communicate thoughts. the implications and uses of Frege's work for post-structuralist and post-modern (Norris.4 Following this newer tradition of Frege scholarship. 1990. feminist (Nye. however. Marxist (Callincos. (Thus Habermas' Fregean paraphrase: 'A validity claim is equivalent to the assertion that the conditions for the validity of an utterance are fulfilled' (original emphasis. I briefly describe Frege's logicist project and the function of his symbolic notation or Begriffsschrift within it. Work by Thomas Ricketts (1985. Frege's semantic notions are not themselves terms in assertions making truth claims.) Other commentators have explored. Conant. Cora Diamond (1991) and others has fostered a greater appreciation of the nature of Frege's logical project as a whole and a reappraisal of the status of his 'philosophical' writings in relation to that work? On the whole. In attempting to display the structure and conditions of significant statements. forthcoming). but rather elucidations of the logical structure of such judgments. 1983). 1989. Habermas. this essay places Frege's writings on language within his logicist project as a whole and the logically-perfect notation system he attempted to design as part of this project. addresses tensions that the distinction between sense and reference introduced into Frege's system and the question of whether and to what extent his logical analyses apply to everyday language. The first section discusses the connection in Frege's work of logical and inferential concerns with semantic ones. 276-277). Diamond. there is a growing tradition in Frege studies that has challenged this interpretation of his writings. 1985.
stipplemented by signs for logical relations. pp. 84). Frege ran up against the logical imperfections of ordinary language. writings like Conceptual Notation [Begriffsschrift] (1972) and Basic Laws of Arithmetic (1964) pertain to Frege's technical work on mathematical logic. which he called Begriffsschrift (concept-script or conceptual notation). most clearly in that work and most frequently since then explained in terms of object-expressions: the reference of such an expression is the object denoted by it and its sense is the 'mode' in which the object is presented. Frege sought to clarify the ground and thereby the objectivity of mathematical knowledge. 182-194). he devised a symbolism for the logical articulation of content. Frege's example is the word 'horse' (Frege. 157-177. avoiding these logical imperfections and representing just those aspects of linguistic content relevant to inference. 1972. p.. This dissociation of assertoric force from the predicate Frege saw as the key insight of his work (Frege. In opposition to contemporaries who sought explanations of mathematics in empirical and especially psychological terms. he sought to design a logical notation. For these reasons. Frege sought to show that arithmetic was grounded solely in logic by demonstrating that the basic laws of arithmetic could be proven from the general laws of logic using definitions alone. however. while essays like 'On Sense and Meaning' and 'Concept and Object' deal with semantic theory (1984. p. For this purpose. 1972. which he found often has gaps in sequences of reasoning and vague forms of inference that allow greater generality than warranted to slip in (Frege. refer to the same heavenly body. 6 One purpose of this distinction was to account for the fact that sentences containing co-referring terms can be informative . are the basis of Frege's title as the father of modern logic.F R O M THE BEGRIFFSSCHRIFT TO THE P H I L O S O P H I C A L I N V E S T I G A T I O N S 3 is that words signify.for example. 'the Morning Star' and 'the Evening Star'. natural language contains terms that are vague or ambiguous. one taken up and deepened by Wittgenstein. 184). a person could be unaware that 'The Morning Star is the Evening Star' is a true statement even though the two expressions. judgment involved combining a subject-content with a predicate-content. Frege's concern with judgment led him to see . to do so only forms the content of judgment. Further. had its motivation in the larger project that was Frege's life work concerning the foundations of mathematical knowledge and the epistemological nature of mathematical laws. Thus the essay ends by framing the beginnings of a reading of the Philosophical Investigations that emphasizes the Fregean sources of that work and in so doing suggests the deep connection between semantic-cognitive and social-pragmatic perspectives on language. The distinction between sense and reference. In Frege's view. 85). Given the utmost generality with which arithmetical notions apply to thought. Frege's logic is centered on the notion of judgment and his insight that entertaining a thought is distinct from judging it to be true. p. For his predecessors. On this view. In attempting to carry out this project. 5 Language and Begriffsschrifl It has often been the practice to read one or two of Frege's essays on language out of the context of his work as a whole. These innovations. 1979. especially as they relate to the expression of generality. The former of these papers is Frege's most well-known work. in which he discusses the distinction between the sense [Sinn] and reference or meaning [Bedeutung] of linguistic terms. especially in using the same expression both for a concept and for an individual falling under it. the recognition or assertion of its truth or falsity is a separate step.
was designed to represent the internal structure of judgments and of sequences of inferential reasoning more perspicuously than does everyday language.. As Cora Diamond has written. 292). 1984. In this regard. were incomplete or unsaturated.. an object is what is denoted by the argument-expression completing such a function. citing the difference between the 'is' of identity and the 'is' of predication (Frege. 85-86). Frege expressed the difference between functions or concepts and objects figuratively by saying that functions. Frege's emphasis on inference and inferential relations can help make clear the role of the notion of truth in his work. that such is or is not the case. Frege's logical work led him to assert that 'the fundamental logical relation' is not the association of subject and predicate. then. however. p. '. then. for Frege the role of judgment and truth in our thinking comes out in our practice of arguing for and making assertions and using judgments as the basis for inferring other judgments: 'Our appreciation that judgments are subject to assessment as correct or incorrect is not manifested by the use of predicates "true" or "false". but rather in the assertive employment of language in the construction of lines of reasoning' (Ricketts. does not hinge on any notion of correspondence to reality. 1984. It is especially significant that Frege's method began with complete judgments and sought a means of displaying their internal structure as it pertained to inference. for Frege 'what thought is is made clear not so much in .. As Ricketts has argued.4 JANET SKUPIEN the intimate connection between meaning and truth: the content grasped in entertaining a thought . His view of truth. the Begriffsschrift makes use of a function/argument format in order to mark this crucial logical relation. unlike Frege. pp. 1979. 'I must confine myself to hinting at what I have in mind by means of a metaphorical expression. segmentation into logical units in the Begriffsschrift turns on a recognition of the inferences in which judgments can function. In so speaking. seeks to make perspicuous the logical form of thought. and there is no metaperspective in his system from which to assert such a view. the value of which when completed by an argument is always a truth-value. The Begriffsschrift. in that the name for an object has itself no argument places.is a horse' designates a concept because whenever it is completed by a sign for an argument it yields a statement which is judged to be true or false. p. 174). p. and here I must rely on my reader's meeting me half-way' (Frege. 5. p. pp. 1979. p. Frege found such a conception logically incoherent (Frege. 1979. Differences in logical form entail different implications for inference in terms of the statements a judgment can be inferred from and those that can be inferred from it. 128-129). a concept is a particular kind of function. he noted. by inference or inspection. For Frege. however. pp.for the moment.. 15-16). which begins with the formation of concepts by abstraction (Frege. the subject/predicate grammar of ordinary language often masks the logical form of the thought expressed by a sentence. he noted. 1979. 183-184) or the merely superficial grammatical similarity between general and particular judgments. For example. like the expressions for them. 7 As Ricketts notes (1985.is intrinsically connected to being able to affirm. Frege's notation. 1986b. correlatively. Frege describes a genuine thought as 'that to which the question "Is it true?" is in principle applicable' (Frege. This he saw as a distinctive feature of his logic as opposed to traditional logic. 253). taking a homey example like the thought that the back door is locked . An appreciation of the role of the Begriffsschrift in Frege's work can illuminate how his notion of truth is linked to inference. but an object's falling under a concept (Frege. while objects were complete or saturated. 1986a. 118). pp.
then they are just deluding themselves' (Frege. Frege's search for a logically-perfect language also addressed a concern with communication from the beginning. 7). they are in reality attaching different senses to sentences with the same wording. Frege's project aims to make explicit this objective content of the truths of mathematics. 'and if they still believe that they are working within one and the same discipline. objectivity . 1972. !968: p. 1991. Frege noted that the logical imperfections of natural language cause us to lack a means of avoiding misunderstandings on the part of others (Frege. need to be stressed. p. 368).. I think.) The failure to provide a means of avoiding intersubjective misunderstanding was especially significant to Frege given the nature of his mathematical project as a whole. Frege said: 'Yet if everyone had the right to understand by this name whatever he pleased. p. once investigators come to an agreement about the . the Begriffsschrift is designed to specify the conditions under which signs express thoughts which can be grasped and understood by different people. 1979. 133-134) discusses the Kantian sources of Frege's conceptions of the nature of logic and the critical function of philosophy.. that is to say.325). In the version of Begriffsschrift in Basic Laws. For Frege it was a hallmark of science that many can engage in it (Frege. he does take over in the Tractatus (1961) the use of a symbolic notation to clarify logical form and avoid philosophical errors based on confusions o f logical role (3. which Frege believed was missing in mathematics. Of the lack of a common definition for the number one. it is exactly the same for all rational beings.becomes cast in terms of the intersubjectively shareable. that even with the Begriffsschrift intersubjective understanding is never completely assured. Although the primary purpose of the Begriffsschrift was to ensure correctness of reasoning and to avoid the logical errors to which the forms of everyday language could lead. but the notation provides a means of addressing these difficulties systematically and minimizing the scope of possible misunderstanding as far as possible. 256). investigators were in effect working on different sciences.that which is more than subjective . for all who are capable o f grasping it' (Frege. In the framework of Frege's anti-psychologism. In a paper dating from the time of the first version of the Begriffsschrift. p. 7).such propositions would have no common content' (Frege. (It is true. pp. as discussed in the next section. It is worthy of note in this regard that Frege believed that in doing so the Begriffsschrift was fulfilling philosophy's proper task of dispelling the illusions brought on by the forms of language and thus 'breaking the domination of the word over the human spirit' (Frege. On his analysis..FROM T H E BEGRIFFSSCHRIFT TO THE P H I L O S O P H I C A L IN VESTIGA TIONS 5 sentences about thought but in the clear expression of thoughts in a concept-script' (Diamond. especially in relation to Kant's notion of dialectical illusion. 1984. If mathematicians disagree on a fundamental concept like 'number'. 1967. The content of a judgment like 2 + 3 = 5 is 'something objective. 83). p. yet the psychologistic mathematicians of the time were contending that the basic terms of mathematics stood for psychological entities. then the same proposition about one would mean different things for different people. James Conant (1991. 118). he said. p. As part of this project. p.323-3. Frege's role is key in the transition from Kant's conception of the target of philosophy as the illusion of knowledge to the Tractatus's concern with the illusion of thought. then. 8 While the logical and inferential aims o f the Begriffsschrift are well documented. the importance of its aims concerning communication. 1979. i). While Wittgenstein did not share an interest in the substantive aims of the Begriffsschrift. Without an agreement on the fundamental notions of a discipline. .
A correlative aspect of this emphasis on objectivity is Frege's insistence that for the individual to think is to grasp something outside of his or her own subjectivity: 'The connections which constitute the essence of thinking are of a different order from the association of ideas' (Frege. 133. p. Against this view of the everyday roots of Frege's conceptions of judgment and objectivity. p. In particular. Weiner (forthcoming) argues that it is not our everyday linguistic practices that elucidate these notions. . that it determine for every object whether or not the object falls under it. 72). The Begriffsschrift is thus designed to display the structure of what can be thought and communicated. however. We saw the logical imperfections that Frege identified in ordinary language. Frege's view is that judgments are what assertions manifest. 127. 1986b. pp. This language has led some commentators to attribute a species of Platonism to him. 1992). how could we ever come to assume the existence of something that is not part of our mind? (Frege. 1979. but only the logical rigors of a systematic science. For Ricketts. the distinction between subjective and objective exhibited in our practice needs no securing and admits of no deeper explanation' (Ricketts. Metadiscourse and elucidation The emphasis on the Begriffsschrift and communication can help us clarify possible misunderstandings of Frege's notion of objectivity and begin to examine the relation between the strictures Frege placed on significant statements in the Begriffsschrift and his own linguistic practices in his non-technical writings. about which we think. p. 1979. 1979. as positing the mindindependent existence of thoughts as the ontological underpinnings of our ability to communicate (Burge. If we only know the contents of our own psychologies. all complex expressions formed from the signs for them are assured an intersubjective reference. it is necessary for truth claims and the application of logical laws that a concept have 'sharp boundaries'. 174). 376). pp. or when we make assertions and agree or disagree with the statements of others. 1992. 1986b. 137. p. often speaks of people grasping the same thought and indeed argues that it is specifically this possibility that differentiates thoughts from subjective ideas (Frege. 4. independent of ourselves and our thinking. we engage in a totally different kind of linguistic practice when we ask questions of others and receive their answers.6 JANET SKUPIEN primitive elements of their system and their names. 69-72). question and response. that themselves elucidate his conception of objectivity: such talk 'just restates the possibility of agreement that Frege takes to be intrinsic to assertion' (Ricketts. Rather. Ricketts. It is characteristic of genuine thought expressible in Begriffsschrift that there is something. it is a way for Frege to elucidate his conceptions of objectivity and judgment by distinguishing them from the subjective expression of states like hunger or satiation (Ricketts. p. Frege. that often fail clearly to decide fuzzy cases. Taylor. This requirement is rarely met by everyday concepts. While the latter can at most inspire expressions of empathy or doubt in others. especially in the papers collected as his Posthumous Writ&gs. 1984. Of themselves. Talk of people grasping the same thought is Frege's way of redescribing the everyday practices of assertion and agreement. to which the Begriffsschrift is a contribution. 1986b. he believed. these linguistic practices need no ontological foundation: 'From the perspective Frege acquires in starting from judgments and their contents. 144). has argued that Frege's talk of individuals grasping the same thought does not have an ontological import. 72).
. 1979. as an idea does to the person who has it.. that Frege's remarks about sharing the same thought are not meant to have an ontological import.because it is only in the latter case that 'a thought' has any meaning. otherwise a 'dispute about the truth of something would be futile.) We cannot simply point to our everyday practices of arguing and disputing. but rather an elucidation of the nature of genuine thoughts expressible in Begriffsschrift. But equally. p. (In 'On Sense and Meaning'. 1984. it is only for statements expressible in Begriffsschrift that content is explicitly expressed and shared.FROM T H E BEGRIFFSSCHRIFT TO T H E P H I L O S O P H I C A L INVESTIGA TIONS 7 The role of the Begriffsschrift and its connection with issues of communication can help clarify what is significant in both Ricketts' and Weiner's arguments. as discussed in the next paragraph.grasped in common when people communicate. he believed that without a logically perspicuous language we lack the means of avoiding misunderstanding with others. When Frege speaks about thoughts. Rather these statements are intended to elucidate the notion of judgment that underlies Frege's system. then. being that which the Begriffsschrift displays. he is always. 130. It is certainly the case that Frege repeatedly refers to our practice of making assertions and assessing and disputing the assertions of others to argue that a thought does not belong specially to the person who has it. 169). asking and answering questions. and this for a very specific reason . There would be no common ground to fight on' (Frege. he gives the example of 'the will of the people' and sees in this tendency of language an opening to demagoguery (Frege. referring to genuine thoughts. to take the passage to be itself making a substantive assertion like those that are specifiable in Begriffsschrift. In order to take this statement to be asserting an ontological claim about an entity . Rather. 1979. even before the sense/reference distinction was formulated in the early 1890s. ones that are specifiable in Begriffsschrift and determinately true or false (Frege. 329).. It is not in all arguments that disputants actually have a commonly-held topic of contention.'a thought' . This role of the Begriffsschrift can help clarify the status of Frege's non-technical writings. p. a thought. are not themselves expressible in Begriffsschrift. to justify Frege's notion of the objectivity of thoughts. 1979. being well aware of the tendency of ordinary language to form expressions that appear to mean something. we must presume that there is something that 'a thought' or 'the same thought' denotes in the context of such general talk about language. And after that distinction. 127). 'a thought'. p. 127). p. Metasystematic notions like 'thought'. as the same thought' (Frege. But we can specify a more important reason why these statements do not have an ontological import by drawing on Weiner's argument that for Frege it is only in science that the objectivity of judgment is truly displayed. Consider the kind of statement Frege makes about the possibility of people sharing thoughts: 'A thought does not belong specially to the person who thinks it. but to have on examination no determinate application. except in very specific contexts. is. to take the quoted statement from Frege to be making a claim about an entity. p. 1984. whoever thinks it encounters it in the same way. I think that Ricketts is right. Frege's statement. in effect. Frege seems to have been far from thinking that in every dispute people are actually debating thoughts with intersubjectively shareable content. Further.. however. however. is not a general assertion or truth claim about a specific kind of entity. thoughts are rather what signs meeting the conditions of Begriffsschrift express. a reason that relates to the Begriffsschrift and its role in the expression and proof of scientific truths.
pre-eminently function. 'concepts' and 'objects' do not have for Frege an independent ontological status as what concept-expressions and object-expressions denote. and analogously for our apprehension of concepts in relation to second-level generality. p. Similarly for concepts. 'never to ask for the meaning of a word except in the context of a sentence' (Frege. on the one hand. or making metalinguistic statements that stipulate the meanings of the expressions of his notation (Dummett. for example "there are functions" cannot be translated into the system. What is the connection between these two types of writing? Frege has usually been taken as setting out semantic and philosophical theories in his non-technical writings. 66. on the other. let us consider more closely the relation between the Begriffsschrift itself and the essays and passages in which Frege discusses this system. however. metasystematic. and. (Considerations such as these would seem to be behind Frege's so-called context principle. that Frege makes in his non-technical writings.) In order to draw out the implications of the lack of metaperspective for the interpretation of Frege's work and the prospects for semantic theory. 1968. the Begriffsschrift and Basic Laws. the writings in which Frege discusses his system and. as he says. pp. But these terms cannot themselves be put into the notation or enter into judgments that are determinately true or false. once we have "caught on". that there are function signs among the signs of the system. there are. an expression only 'means a concept' when playing a certain role in assertions and their inferential relations. terms like 'concept' and 'object' have a use in that there are different types of signs corresponding to these different logical roles and their implications for inference. statements have determinate and intersubjectively shareable meaning if they are capable of being put in Begriffsschrift. that metasystematic statements . upon examination. 'concept' and 'object' cannot themselves be expressed in the notation. but we see. hence that there are functions' (van Heijenoort. an expression 'means an object' if it plays a certain role in inference patterns related to first-level generality. sense and reference. We learn from putting judgments into Begriffsschrift that there are differences in logical role between concepts and objects. 9 As Jean van Heijenoort has noted. An object is the reference of an object-expression. p. In learning to use the system. That is to say.and argument-signs. There is no independent perspective for talking about objects. the technical apparatus of the Begriffsschrift. statements that resist translation into Begriffsschrift 'are. the sentences of his essays and the prose sections of his technical works have to be taken as themselves making judgeable truth claims. p. are only apprehended as the designations of object-expressions in assertions making judgments. 1984. x).8 JANET SKUPIEN For Frege. Objects. ones which deal with the relation between expressions and what the expressions express or stand for. In the Begriffsschrift. including the Foundations of Arithmetic and his essays. Ricketts has argued on the basis of the lack of metaperspective that in Frege's system ontological distinctions are supervenient on logical ones (Ricketts. 89). 13). different types of signs in the symbolism corresponding to the different logical roles within judgments. The latter include both the prose sections of his technical works. Rather. 'elucidates' its fundamental ideas (Frege. 1986b. However. In order for that to be the case. with its specification of the structure for the expression and communication of thoughts. 137). 13). There are within the Fregean corpus. 1981. 1985. therefore. p. and his more 'philosophical' writings. We have seen. and thereby the nature of the statements about concepts and objects. as we have seen. it is that which an object-expression means when it occurs in a sentence with a truth-value. concept-expressions and object-expressions.
Hints. and thus also indefinable. 1990. one must make use of a figurative mode of expression (Frege. The purpose of these remarks is thus to make clear the Begriffsschrift. 301). Frequently. Both Ricketts (1986a) and Weiner (1986. and here I must rely on my reader's agreeing to meet me half-way (Frege. Elucidations are examples which illustrate the use of the term in question. Elucidation is Frege's term for the process preceding the systematization of a science by which investigators come to a mutual understanding of the primitive terms of their system. It seems unlikely that we can take these statements as asserting truth claims without considering their own logical form. 1984. As we have seen. 1984. pp. We must admit logically primitive elements that are indefinable. but likewise none is here possible. Frege was clear that not everything can be defined. For this. However. Frege's remarks about the necessarily metaphorical and elucidatory nature of his discussions of the logical underpinnings of his system have led Weiner to argue that all of Frege's 'apparently philosophical work' should be read not as proposing philosophical theories. we must rely on others guessing what we have in mind and 'meeting us halfway' (Frege. For example. and in this way we mark them out as fundamentally different from numbers. 292). what is logically simple is indefinable because it is not further analyzable. I regard a regular definition as impossible. notions like 'function'. For Frege. chapter 6) have argued that Frege's philosophical.FROM THE BEGRIFFSSCHRIFT TO THE P H I L O S O P H I C A L IN VESTIGA TIONS 9 are not themselves expressible in Begriffsschrift. 1989. Even here there seems to be a need to make sure that we designate the same thing by the same sign (word). 1984. within which alone propositions of a theory can be explicitly expressed. p. 1984. Understanding the issue involved here sheds further light on the contradictions involved in the notion of philosophical theory . he says: 'When we have thus admitted objects without restriction as arguments and values of functions. p. p. 282. It is only possible to indicate [hinzudeuten] what is meant' (Frege. 193. 115). 292). There is no way to guarantee understanding of these examples. 1984. I must confine myself to hinting at what 1 have in mind by means of a metaphorical expression. naturally has something answering to it in the functions themselves. which we here called 'unsaturatedness'. agreement about what is logically composite is easily reached by means of definition. for this. something else must enter in. since we have here something too simple to admit of logical analysis. and the logicist project Frege sought to carry out with it. 1989. what the concept-expressions of language mean. p. but we do in practice manage to come to an understanding. pp. one centering on Frege's notion of 'elucidation'. They too m a y be called 'unsaturated'. 207. concepts must be defined for all objects so that all object-expressions formed from them have a determinate reference. p. metaphorical or figurative expressions are the only means available to bring others to understand the words as intended (Frege. Of course this is no definition. Frege's notation is designed so that its expressions have an intersubjective reference. 301). 1984. 'concept' and 'object' that underlie his system are logically primitive. says Frege. but play a different role in his system. The peculiarity of functional signs. 292). the question arises what it is that we are calling an object. One of Weiner's main arguments for the lack of theory in Frege's philosophical and semantic writings has to do with the question of the reference of concept-expressions. but rather as 'hinting designed to put his readers in the right frame of mind to read and understand Begriffsschrift and Grundgesetze [Basic Laws]'(Weiner. Once the investigators have come to an understanding about the primitive elements and their designations. I call it explication [elucidation: EIg&terung] (Frege. non-technical writings do not have the status of truth claims in a theory about meaning. 147). Since definitions are not possible for primitive elements.
10 JANET SKUPIEN from a Fregean perspective. A concept is predicative. Frege says: better. 1979. which have been the cornerstone of semantic theories attributed to and inspired by him. He goes on to argue further that while it is clear that something corresponds to function. p. However. We already do this when we speak of 'the meaning of ~'is a square number"'. 178). '[I]t is a mere illusion to suppose that a concept can be made an object without altering it' (Frege. Frege says: This difference between signs must correspond to a difference in the realm of meanings [Bedeutungen]. Thus 'our words fail of their intended target' (Frege. so that the same reference relation cannot hold of both objectexpressions and concept-expressions (Weiner. Whatever is designated by such an object-expression is no longer operating as a concept. I would argue. speaking loosely. but that what one is trying to do in talking about 'the reference' or 'meaning' of this important class of linguistic expressions is contradictory. forthcoming)." with the definite article. what can be said about an object cannot be said about a concept. In speaking about the way in which object-expressions as complete parts (for example. p. as well as clarifying the status of terms like 'sense' and 'reference'. As he says in the Foundations of Arithmetic. but in saying 'the meaning' or 'the reference' of a concept-word. For Frege. 'the meaning of a concept-expression'. Frege's point is that. as we saw in a preceding quotation. or. the conceptual nature of our thinking. but utterly fail to designate something of a predicative nature. 'objects and concepts are fundamentally different and cannot stand in for one another' (Frege. Our words fail of their target. There are major implications in this. 1980b. should really be avoided' (Frege. In the case of words like 'concept'. which for Frege would include object-expressions and concept. pp. 141-142).or function-expressions. but for all putatively metadiscursive talk. while concept-expressions are not meaningless. We think we are talking about what conceptexpressions mean. although it is not possible to speak of it without turning what is in need of completion into something complete and thus falsifying the real situation. 178. And yet we want to understand the predicative aspect of language and. 'even the expression "the meaning. 1980a. pp.. no object-expression can express the contribution a concept-expression makes to a judgment. p. 193. he says. '3') and concept-expressions as incomplete parts ('. it is not only that the word should be avoided. p. 1979. 120). In the final section of this essay. p. in . 'relation' and 'function'. I would argue. Obviously. nonsensical (Frege. which we might hint at by talking about concepts or the reference of concept-expressions.. while something corresponds to concept-words in the realm of reference or that about which we speak. 1979. as Frege says. not only for explicit semantic theories based on a reference relation for concept-expressions. x). we have something without a predicative nature. 239). Frege says that he can only hint at what the function-expressions of language mean. A semantic theory would need to involve an account of how the truth value or reference of a sentence is determined by the reference of its parts. 1979. a notion of 'the reference' of a concept-expression is an inherent contradiction. The problem is not only that. Frege concludes that expressions like 'the reference of a concept-expression' and 'the concept' are themselves inherently defective and should be outlawed (Frege.is a prime number') fit together in a sentence. Rather. we falsify the contribution concept-expressions make to judgments by trying to speak about them using an object-expression.and concept-expressions in the realm of reference. 255). 255). 1979. Yet the words 'is a square number' are not meaningless (Frege. no substantive assertions of a theory can designate what the concept-expressions of language mean. 122. 119. So that. correlatively.
Sense. If sense is explained as the mode in which an object is presented.FROM THE BEGRIFFSSCHRIFT TO THE P H I L O S O P H I C A L INVESTIGA TIONS 11 discussing the tensions that the sense/reference distinction introduced into Frege's system and the difficulties involved in his views on the gap between language use in scientific and everyday contexts.. however. In her view. With the introduction of the notion of sense as distinct from reference. but is nevertheless empty? We may make logically impeccable inferences about 'the man on the corner' but if this term is empty we fail of the truth. pre-eminently nonreferring object-expressions such as definite descriptions . However. Once achieved.'the man on the corner' when there is no man on the corner . leaves the impression that there is the sense of an expression. 190). Investigators need to come to an agreement on the primitive terms of their system. reference and application Taken as making general assertions about language. Ricketts argues that in this way the notion of sense introduced ineliminably semantic concerns into Frege's system. an expression means an object if it plays a certain role in inferences. The laws of logic apply directly in constructing such lines of reasoning.. but elucidatory notions for explaining the working of Begriffsschrift. distinguishing between the sense and the reference of terms makes it appear that expressions and sentences have sense and appear to be about something independent of the way the terms are actually applied in judgments. all object-expressions . The discussion to this point. Frege's talk about 'the sense' and 'the reference' of terms. What. but that this demand is in conflict with his notion of logic (Ricketts. most often explained on the model of object-expressions. however.and the sentences in which they occur. and concludes that as a result Frege found himself in need of a semantic theory to investigate whether the expressions of language are meaningful. 1986a. Frege's conceptions of truth and inference imply no metaperspective. as noted previously. but this can only be effected through elucidatory applications of them. I suggest how Wittgenstein in the Philosophical Investigations extends and transforms these Fregean themes in order to illuminate the conceptual nature of language and thought while confronting at an even deeper level the illusions that lie in our language. or perhaps brought to light tensions already existing in it. on the other. on the one hand. This assumes. according to Ricketts. Moreover. For Frege. about an expression that appears to play such a logical role. so that we can somehow talk and think about an object in independence of questions about the sense of expressions we use to do so and the judgments in which they occur (coincidently making questions about the 'hook-up' between language and the world appear to make sense). and there can be no substantive questions about whether the expressions of Begriffsschrift are meaningful. the distinction between sense and reference appears to have introduced tensions into Frege's system. Frege recognized the possibility of meaningless names. but rather the use of judgments in drawing inferences and affirming and denying other judgments. however. As argued previously. that the expressions of language are meaningful. Frege's logical laws are meant to apply only to scientific language regimented in Begriffsschrift. suggests that 'sense' and 'reference' are not themselves substantive terms o f a theory about meaning. and the object to which it refers. questions then arise about expressions with sense which nevertheless do not present an object. there is no metaperspective from which to question whether the expressions of language actually mean something. p. Ricketts (1986a) has argued that the distinction between sense and reference is at odds with Frege's conception of logic. Weiner (forthcoming) has argued in response to Ricketts that this tension is not as problematic as pictured.
1980b. to share thoughts with others and discuss and argue about topics in common. a semantic theory is also unnecessary for ordinary language.. a difference between words and that to which we apply them.. have as their constituents concept-expressions. As noted. 1979. 115). As noted. pp. One consequence of Frege's analysis is that ordinary language rarely if ever meets the requirements set down for the expression of thoughts in the strict sense. He wrote to the mathematician Peano: The task of our vernacular languages is essentially fulfilled if people engaged in communication with one another connect the same thought or approximately the same thought. definite descriptions are a class of expressions that may have sense and yet fail of a reference. if it determines for every object whether or not the object falls under it. provided only that the whole proposition has a sense (Frege. In many places. how could it be? How could logic or language guarantee how the world &. however. on the contrary. expressions of the form 'the x'. for there to be something about which it speaks . 170. 186). As Weiner (forthcoming) points out. 192. 178-180). a concept-expression is only meaningful for Frege if it has sharp boundaries.the concept designated by the expression '. Speaking loosely but in a Fregean vein. indeed. And yet we do seem to draw inferences in everyday contexts and. something which can be or fail to be the case. extending Fregean concerns and methods in the Philosophical Investigations. But how is it that words have any sense at all? In concluding this essay. For such an expression to be meaningful . on Frege's analysis definite descriptions. Weiner's arguments.involves presuppositions about the existence and uniqueness of the object named.that is. We know that the expressions of everyday language are not meaningful in Frege's terms because everyday concept-expressions rarely if ever meet his sharp-boundary requirement for meaningfulness. p. Frege remarks on the logic of expressions of the form 'the x'. But.~° On the other hand. 1984. provides an alternative to theory for investigating these questions. pp.12 JANET SKUPIEN formed from the primitive terms will have both a sense and a reference. Ricketts claims that the use of definite descriptions . is an x' must not be empty and only one thing must fall under it (Ferge. might underscore questions we have about the ultimate import of Frege's project for the understanding of ordinary language. But here we might question what application 'the same thought' or even 'approximately the same thought' has in this context... But Frege's substitute for definite descriptions in Basic Laws made use of the courseof-values function for the extension of a concept that eventually brought his system into . what we need to understand is: what language is so that it determines in the real world what counts as its application. 1986a. I want to suggest how Wittgenstein. Frege believed that for this it was not at all necessary that the expressions of everyday language have precise reference in the terms specified in his Begriffsschrift. but that agreement on these presuppositions is not guaranteed by logic or our shared understanding of language (Ricketts.. I can do so by returning to the issue of definite descriptions. 100. that there is a man on the corner whom I designate with my phrase? What the existence of meaningless proper names seems to force. I would like to ask. and this requirement is only met by the concepts of a systematic science. Frege says: provided the sentence 'has a sense'. 'the man on the corner' .for example. with the same proposition. For this it is not at all necessary that the individual words should have a sense and a meaning of their own.. is a recognition of the fact that there is something about which we speak. at least sometimes. p. Even more problematically. Frege's Begriffsschrift was designed to remedy the logical defects of everyday language for pursuing questions of truth.
Rather. 1985. § 2-7) or that words name the simple elements of reality (Wittgenstein. for it lay in our language and language seemed to repeat it to us inexorably' (Wittgenstein. § 46-51) on which scientific investigators might come to agreement . p. p. in terms of which the application in any particular circumstance is justified. 269). but something taken for granted in every use of words.F R O M T H E BEGRIFFSSCHRIFT TO T H E P H I L O S O P H I C A L IN VESTIGA TIONS 13 contradiction (Frege. not the object to which it refers. § 130) of the Investigations as objects of comparison to elucidate the meanings that come to mind with words by investigating where that picture has an actual application. the interweaving o f word and applications in the conduct of life. this is.. t2 Our words appear to get their meaning by naming what they are about. Frege used the Begriffsschrift to take terms that appeared to be about something. the expression does not designate anything operating as a concept. the use of an expression must be assessed according to the custom by which expressions are applied in the language-game. what we need to understand is what concept-expressions mean as determining that to which they apply. Again. (Greatly simplified.. But the problem with the formulation for a definite description does not seem to be that 'the extension of a concept' or 'the course-of-values of a function' fails to denote an object. the comparison brings to light in the use of an expression in a particular instance the practices. In so doing. 1958. Here I see Wittgenstein drawing out the implications of Frege's emphasis on Bedeutung as well as building on and extending Frege's insight that elucidatory practices underlie our ability to refer to things. . And we could not get outside it.. As Wittgenstein notes. in our language. 1984. then. j3 The idea that we use words to name and obtain the things of our world (Wittgenstein. This starting point thus reflects the commonplace assumption that we use words because they stand for things. looking for its employment in actual judgments that such-and-such is or is not the case. This cannot be done through a semantic theory or by investigating the existence or uniqueness claims concerning the object . a is 'the f' if the course-ofvalues of the concept f = a. but the concrete practices that determine what counts as 'a woman' or 'a man'. a concept with what falls under it. clarified the appearance of sense. 49-51).not an object-presenting sense. § 114). Any expression might be used in error: 'the man on the corner' does not present an object because it might in actuality be a woman to whom I am trying to refer. 1958. Wittgenstein uses the 'clear and simple language-games' (Wittgenstein. 1986a. 188) that Wittgenstein's investigations are designed to elucidate. not even an assumption. 1958. the sense of a reality that corresponds to our words is internal to language: 'A picture held us captive.what object? What is it for our words to be about objects? tj The Investigations begin this way: with the things of the world and the words we learn to name these objects of thought and desire. 1979. The investigations show that one cannot simply go from an expression and the sense it brings to mind to the object it supposedly denotes (Wittgenstein. for example. In any application. Frege's expression for a definite description seems to conflate what a concept-expression means with the applications it determines.in each case. The investigation thus brings into relief what we understand in understanding such an expression . strictly speaking. 'a corner'. and by putting them into the notation. it is that an object is not what is needed here at all.) Later in life. 'the reference of concept-expressions'. It is just this object-presenting sense (Ricketts. § 51). which makes perspicuous the structure of significant statements. 1958. Frege said that he himself had been misled by the illusion that 'the extension of a concept' denoted an object (Frege. pp.
p. the topic intersects with the subject of the present essay in a number of ways.. It is to tensions such as these in Frege's views on logic that Wittgenstein addresses himself in the Tractatus (Ricketts. Conant. 1991). if they are both true.h a v e a c o n t i n u i n g role in t h e p r o j e c t o f c l a r i f y i n g t h e n a t u r e o f o u r linguistic a n d c o n c e p t u a l p r a c t i c e s . if we cannot have any ideas or intuitions of them?': 'our problem becomes this: To define the sense of a proposition in which a number word occurs' (Frege. While a comprehensive survey of Frege's logical doctrines is beyond the scope of this essay. 6 The distinction between sense and reference was introduced by Frege in an 1891 paper. pp. 2 The picture of Frege as the founder of semantic theory owes a great deal to the interpretation of Frege's writings by Michael Dummett. p. NOTES I Dummett (1993. T h i s a l l o w s f o r n o a n a l y s i s o f signs o r texts a l o n e . They must mean the same. "How. John McDowell and Carol Stabile. 5) cites as the first clear example of the linguistic turn in the history of philosophy Frege's response in the (1884) Foundations of Arithmetic to the question about our knowledge of numbers. For the purposes of argument. Acknowledgements--The author is grateful for comments on versions of this paper by James Conant. 1991. the number 7). 1991). o n l y a n e l u c i d a t i o n o f t h e a c t i v i t i e s in t e r m s o f w h i c h t h e w o r l d b e c o m e s r e n d e r e d d e s c r i b a b l e in w o r d s . 1985.. 73).the e l u c i d a t i o n o f sense t h r o u g h a n i n v e s t i g a t i o n o f t h e s t r u c t u r e a n d c o n d i t i o n s o f s i g n i f i c a n t s t a t e m e n t s . where it was discussed in terms of sentential expressions. 1991. Conant. Conant. 13). The focus of the literature on which 1 draw has been primarily on Frege's views on logic and the tensions therein (Ricketts. T h a t t h e r e is n o 'extension' of a concept apart from the practical activities that extend language-games i n t o n e w c i r c u m s t a n c e s i l l u m i n a t e s t h e K a n t i a n n o t i o n o f t h i n k i n g as ' b r i n g i n g the pres e n t a t i o n s o f t h e senses u n d e r r u l e s ' ( K a n t . Weiner. Frege believed that the laws of logic were substantive claims of a science of logic and thus themselves expressible in his Begriffsschrift or logical notation. p.g a m e s d e p l o y e d in it. F r e g e ' s w o r k a n d his a p p r o a c h to l a n g u a g e a n d t h o u g h t . 1990. 1986b. 'Function and Concept'. 3 Hans Sluga's (1980) study was an early attempt to place Frege's work in its historical context. pp. Weiner. then are numbers given to us. Frege introduces truth-values. The publication of the second edition (1981) of Dummett's Frege: Philosophy of Language inspired a number of works exploring the implications of Fregean concerns for literary theory. 1986. for example. 1985. the True and the False. some commentators explicitly identify Frege with Dummett's Frege: see Norris (1985). Diamond. while they express different thoughts.14 JANET SKUPIEN I n this w a y . Gaukroger (1983) and Gorman (1983). 254). ~the Evening Star' . 1985. W i t h t h e f a i l u r e o f t h e o r i e s a b o u t m e a n i n g . Frege uses the examples. b. 1974. Gregory Currie 1982) discussed Frege's philosophical work within the development of his logical project as a whole. Henry Krips. the True. 1986a. he says. See. Two sentences can have the same meaning [Bedeutung]. as what sentences or equations which are true or false mean. 10~11. 'The Evening Star is a planet with a shorter period of revolution than the Earth' and 'The Morning Star is a planet with a shorter period of revolution than the Earth'. I n o r d e r to u n d e r s t a n d w h a t is ' s i g n i f i e d ' by w o r d s . by f o r e g r o u n d i n g the d i s t i n c t i o n b e t w e e n the p a r t i c u l a r c i r c u m s t a n c e s in w h i c h w o r d s a r e u s e d a n d t h e p r a c t i c e s in t e r m s o f w h i c h t h e s e c i r c u m s t a n c e s are rend e r e d m e a n i n g f u l . 1990. After arguing that differences in sign do not necessarily indicate a difference in the thing meant (2+5 and 3+4 both mean the same thing. the q u e s t i o n o f m e a n i n g r e m a i n s . p. This claim would seem to be in tension with his simultaneous view of the logical laws as the norms for holding assertions expressible in Begriffsschrift to be true or false (Ricketts. which has been so influential as to be termed 'canonical' (Brandom. 5 An analysis of the role of questions about communication in the urge toward linguistic theorizing and a different reading of a Wittgensteinian alternative is given in Talbot J. t h e i n v e s t i g a t i o n s e l u c i d a t e t h e ' o b j e c t s ' m e a n t by w o r d s in t e r m s o f the p r a c t i c e s d i s p l a y e d in the c o n d u c t o f t h e lives lived w i t h t h e m . 138-140). o n e n e e d s to b r i n g i n t o a w a r e n e s s b o t h t h e s i t u a t i o n in w h i c h w o r d s a r e u s e d a n d the l a n g u a g e . because it is only a matter of interchanging the words. 1980a. Taylor's (1992) Mutual Misunderstanding: Scepticism and the Theori:ing of Language and Interpretation. b u t in a l t e r e d f o r m : w h a t i n s i g h t c a n we h a v e i n t o t h e c o n c e p t u a l n a t u r e o f o u r t h i n k i n g ? A s d e v e l o p e d a n d d e e p e n e d b y W i t t g e n s t e i n . 1986.
as discussed later in this section. T. pp..is an object' any expression completing it would yield a true statement. by G. 6. Burge. sign.323. Haaparanta and J. pp. that is. eds L. 186-187). 145). '. p. are proper names of the same heavenly body (Frege.633-650. Clarendon Press. which mean the same thing. Cambridge. p. in Basic Laws and in the essay 'Function and Concept' Frege again discussed the relation between signs and what they signify in the context o f co-referring terms (Frege. trans. Callinicos. 1984. So co-referring terms also raise the issue addressed by the sense/reference distinction.. 253-295. NJ.. is a concept'. Philosophy. 7 Using an example from Frege (1984. Conant. 1984. In 3. Although he analyzed judgments of this form differently after making the sense/reference distinction. and we are brought again to the crucial question of what the concept-expressions o f language mean. his discussion of 'Something is an object' makes the point that is at stake here (Frege. it is important that for Frege concept-expressions also have both sense and reference (Frege. He again illustrated this distinction by the pair of terms 'the Morning Star' and 'the Evening Star'. J. A. p. 'Something is an object' elucidates the notion of an object by showing that an object is what is designated by an expression completing a first-level function. long before the sense/reference distinction was formulated. In Frege's system. sign combination. (1983) Marxism and Philosophy. pp. Wittgenstein illustrates differences of logical role by the "is" o f the copula. It could be true even if no objects actually fall under the concept 'mammal'. saying that 'It is only after the introduction of the sense/meaning distinction that we have any reason to talk about a relation between an expression and what it means'. Oxford. (1982) Frege: An Introduction to his philosophy Barnes & Noble Books. MA. 1984. But that seems not precisely true. we may say that general judgments like 'All mammals have red blood' have only a superficial grammatical resemblance to particular judgments like 'My dog has red blood. Reidel. 'All dogs have red blood' and 'My dog has red blood'. REFERENCES Bourdieu. P. Philosophical Topics 20. however. 124-126). 118). published the following year. original emphasis). Also 'Nothing is a concept' clarifies the notion o f a concept and its essential difference from objects. (1991) The search for logically alien thought: Descartes.FROM THE BEGRIFFSSCHRIFT TO THE PHILOSOPHICAL IN VESTIGA TIONS 15 and 'the Morning Star'. Currie. (1992) Frege and knowing the third realm. On the other hand. Although the distinction between sense and reference is most often and clearly made for object-expressions. D. and the Mind. In Basic Laws. sentences are object-expressions which name the truth-values. expression) expresses its sense. 1984. p. 1964. is said to fall under the concept 'has red blood' or 'is red-blooded'. 'All mammals have red blood'. Hintikka. p. an object. 115-180. (The same contrast also holds for the pair o f statements. Mind 101. (1991) Language and Symbolic Power. (1991) The Realistic Spirit: Wittgenstein. In the much more well-known essay. Diamond. Already in the Begiffsschrift. pp. he decried the widespread practice o f blurring the distinction between a sign and what it signifies. Frege discussed the relation between signs and what they signify in the context o f judgments o f identity (Frege. 1979. 9 Frege's apparent counter-examples. Thus the statement says nothing at all about individuals. Frege described the reference or meaning of an object-expression as the object denoted by it and its sense as the 'mode' in which the object is presented to us (Frege. . R. Dordrecht.) 8 References to the Tractatus are to paragraph number. ~l Weiner (forthcoming) claims that the sense/reference distinction was motivated by Frege's recognition o f the existence o f empty proper names. MA. 189-191). 1972. l0 The argument here. J3 The similarity in function o f the Bergriffsschrift and the primitive language-games o f the Investigations was first drawn to my attention by James Conant. it is red-blooded. In these passages. 11). 12 References to the Philosophical Investigations are to paragraph number. pp. 161. means or designates its meaning [reference]' (Frege. and the Tractatus. 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